Business Management Director Ken Pennoyer told the Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday that the underground parking deck at 140 West is not as popular as town officials had hoped.
“We know it is less than what we had anticipated; it is certainly less than what it was when Lot 5 was a surface parking lot, in terms of occupancy,” said Pennoyer. “We expected that, ultimately, over time, people would return to that area to park, however, the dynamics between parking underground and parking on the surface are apparently different in terms of people’s behavior. So folks have kind of not used it to the same extent.”
The $55 million dollar complex of condos and retail was built atop what used to be a town-owned parking lot at the corner of Franklin, Church and Rosemary streets.
Chapel Hill partnered with Ram Development to build the two-level underground parking deck, with one level owned and operated by the town as public parking.
But since opening in 2013, parking revenues at 140 West have not met expectations, and Pennoyer said this is negatively impacting the town’s parking fund.
“The parking fund had built up a fund balance, so in the past few years we had been eating into that fund balance, however, the revenues have not caught up enough to carry us further than Fiscal Year 2016,” said Pennoyer. “In FY16, basically the fund’s cash reserves will be exhausted and it will need a subsidy.”
Pennoyer recommended shifting the debt from the 140 West project out of the parking fund to be paid using the town’s debt management fund.
“Currently, the parking fund is paying for the debt service that created the parking deck at 140 West. If we were to have the debt fund take over the payments for that debt, it would bring the parking fund back into alignment temporarily. We would kind of use that as a bailout to solidify the fund.”
He noted this would not a permanent fix and doing so would reduce the town’s ability to borrow money by about 10 percent. Pennoyer, along with Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, suggested that in the short-term, lowering the price of parking at 140 West might be a way to draw in more drivers.
The Council will consider how to best balance the parking fund as part of the 2016 budget planning process. The first public budget forum is scheduled for February 23.
You can read the full update on town finances here.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/ch-parking-fund-depleted-140-west-revenues-lag
ORANGE COUNTY – Chapel Hill is adding a new parking lot downtown: on Monday, February 3, the town is opening the Courtyard parking lot, located at 115 South Roberson Street near the west end of Franklin. Town staff say there will be 53 spaces available at the new lot. (There are about 1200 available parking spaces in all in downtown Chapel Hill.)
Earth Policy Institute founder and president Lester Brown will be on campus Tuesday, February 4, lecturing on the future of agriculture in a world of dwindling water.
The lecture is entitled “Peak Water: What Happens to Our Food Supply When the Wells Go Dry?” It begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium at the FedEx Global Education Center. It’s free and open to the public.
Starting in April, ARCA will begin assembling CM18 cash recyclers at its manufacturing facility in Mebane, transfering operations from Italy. The move will make the Mebane facility the only one in the U.S. to produce cash recyclers, used by banks and credit unions to speed its balancing and inventory functions.
Twelve Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School teachers have recently earned National Board Certification: Melissa Nicholson-Clark and Samantha Howard of Morris Grove Elementary; Susan Azzu, Agnes Bernasconi, and Ashley Laver of Rashkis Elementary; Christine Cohn of Estes Hills Elementary; Jennifer Pedersen of Northside Elementary; Lisa Myles of McDougle Elementary; Miles Chappell of Phillips Middle; Beth Kinney of McDougle Middle; Holly Loranger of Chapel Hill High; and Jenny Marie Smith of East Chapel Hill High. Congratulations to all twelve!
North Carolina leads the nation in the number of teachers certified by the National Board.
Another recognition for UNC: the Princeton Review has ranked UNC-Chapel Hill as the number-one public university in the nation on its 2014 list of America’s “Best Value Colleges.”
UNC has long been recognized as a national leader in preserving affordability and accessibility while simultaneously providing a high-quality education and maintaining high graduation rates.
NC State also made the Princeton Review’s list, as the number-four public university in the nation. Williams College in Massachusetts ranked first among private universities.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools are participating in North Carolina’s first official pilot test with school buses filled with propane autogas, an alternative fuel designed to lower gas costs while also reducing toxic emissions.
The North Carolina Propane Gas Association is promoting the new technology in conjunction with Triangle Clean Cities Coalition and Triangle Air Awareness. They say propane autogas can reduce emissions by 80 percent compared to diesel fuel.
Other districts participating in the pilot program include Union, Brunswick, and Nash-Rocky Mount.
Carolina Brewery is celebrating its 19th birthday with events beginning on Wednesday, February 5 and running through Saturday the 8th–including the debut of a new “Anniversary Ale” and a pint glass giveaway on Friday the 7th.
Visit CarolinaBrewery.com for a full schedule of events.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/parking-water-beer-business-education
CARRBORO- The Board of Aldermen wants to hire a consultant to conduct a comprehensive study of the availability of residential and business parking around the downtown area, but board members differ on what should be the ultimate goal of the town’s parking plan.
Sammy Slade said he’d like to see reduced parking downtown to encourage public transit and limit vehicle emissions.
“We just had a typhoon in the Philippines, we’re likely to have disasters here, and we’re supposed to be a town that’s leading the way in mitigating climate change,” said Slade. “It is very frustrating to not be able to register this reality and move forward with a bold plan.”
Others, including Jacqueline Gist, disagreed, saying such a move could hurt downtown businesses.
“I cannot say ‘reduce the number of parking spaces and support our downtown businesses and keep downtown accessible,’” said Gist. “I think the study will give us some facts to do that, but I’m not going to support something, the premise of which is come up with a plan that reduces parking.”
Mayor Mark Chilton said while he sympathized with Slade, the request to lower the current number of spaces is not consistent with the town’s growth plans.
“There are other aspects of where our planning is headed for the downtown area that call for additional businesses and additional residences to come into the downtown area,” said Chilton. “It seems to me it is not very realistic to think of continued growth without having some continued growth in the amount of parking.”
Chilton suggested that changing the parking ratio for future developments might be a workable alternative.
The town collaborated with UNC students in 2008 to conduct a parking survey, but Randee Haven-O’Donnell said it’s time to update the plan as conditions downtown are rapidly changing.
“You know the data that’s in there is based on the lots that existed or were in use at the time, but things are changing, and I think it’s important for us to look at what’s really on the ground now and what’s going to change in the next year or two,” said Haven-O’Donnell.
The comprehensive parking plan outlined by town staffers would not only include a survey of available business and residential parking, it would also lay out a policy for managing the town’s parking supply.
Although board members agreed on the need for such a plan, the potential $100,000 consultant fee gave some pause.
“Obviously one of the issues here is the cost of undertaking a project like this. It has pretty big implications for a budget the size of ours,” said Damon Seils. “There will need to be some discussion about that.”
The board directed staffers to refine the proposal and said they want to gather public feedback to clarify the goal of the parking plan. Funding for the project will likely be discussed at the board’s planning retreat scheduled for early next year.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/carrboro-aldermen-debate-downtown-parking
CARRBORO – Carrboro Aldermen will consider creating a downtown parking plan when the board meets Tuesday.
Town staffers say it could cost approximately $100,000 to hire a consultant to help draft the plan, which would examine the availability of residential and business parking around the downtown area and outline ways to manage the town’s supply of parking.
The board will also consider whether or not to continue to partner with Orange County to provide residential recycling pick-up once funding runs out for the current curbside service in June of 2014.
In addition, the aldermen may take a stance on a plan put forward by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board to move Spanish dual language students out of Carrboro Elementary. The plan drew fire from parents at last week’s school board meeting. Two of the seven aldermen spoke publicly against it and pledged to bring the issue before the board for a vote.
The board meets at 7:30 p.m. in Carrboro Town Hall.
Parking at a residence on Carver Street in the Northside neighborhood before parking limit was put in place. Photo courtesy of Hudson Vaughn.
CHAPEL HILL – You could see a change in Northside neighborhood, as landlords who rent property there are suing Chapel Hill over a parking regulation.
Mark Patmore is the owner of Mercia Rental Properties and one of the landlords suing the Town. He’s challenging a limit put in place by Chapel Hill last fall limiting the number of cars that can be parked in front of Northside properties at four vehicles per residence.
In addition, duplexes and triplexes are allowed up to six vehicles and renters can get five street parking permits per lease.
A state Superior Court has already denied the motion to get rid of Chapel Hill’s rule, but Patmore says this is expected and this case needs to go to the state Supreme Court because it is a state issue.
“That authority comes from the state, so that’s where it belongs, which will be, not in superior court or appeals, but supreme.” Patmore says.
Benjamin Sullivan is the attorney with Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP who is representing Chapel Hill in this case. He says there is precedent for even the state Supreme Court to side with towns when it comes to parking restrictions.
“Towns and counties have had parking regulations in one form or another and those have been challenged, based on the idea that they were beyond the authority of the local government that adopted them,” Sullivan says. “Our Court of Appeals and our Supreme Court have said, ‘No, those are regulations that are within the zoning powers that local governments have in North Carolina.”
Sullivan adds that, although parking is not included in the zoning statues, it is still within a town’s legal authority to make regulations like the one in Northside.
“The zoning statues are intentionally very general,” Sullivan says. “They’re a pretty broad grant of authority and it’s up to the towns, cities and counties to decide which regulations are appropriate.”
Patmore says that Chapel Hill’s restrictions on parking not only hurt him as a landlord, but force visitors to homes in Northside into an unsafe situation where they have to park away from the residence and then walk there, possibly alone or at night.
“I think every resident in this town has the right to be able to park at their home if they have the place to park,” Patmore says.
Part of Chapel Hill’s parking limit in Northside was to prevent visitors and others from parking on lawns and crowding yards and streets.
Hudson Vaughn is the associate director of Northside’s community development center, the Jackson Center. He says that before the parking limit, there was a high volume of cars being parked on Northside properties.
“It felt in the neighborhood like a lot of the front and back yards of houses were turning into, basically, parking lots,” Vaughn says.
Now, Vaughn says there are still parking violations, but overall the neighborhood looks better.
“There’s a lot fewer cars and cars are often parked more in the back now and there’s tighter regulations that landlords are putting on for front yard parking for the look of things,” Vaughn says.
Patmore says when he built rental property in Northside, the town required him to put in a parking area.
“I went ahead and constructed that parking area and now, 10 years later, they’re turning around and saying, ‘You did a good job, but now you can’t use it,’” Patmore says.
At trial, Patmore also argued that the fines imposed by the town for the parking violations are unfairly distributed because they go to him and not the residents doing the actual parking.
Patmore says he passes the fines onto his tenants and includes in his leases that tenants must obey the parking ordinance.
Sullivan says this method of fining better enforces the parking limit than directly fining the renters.
“The landlords have the ability to better regulate what they’re tenants do than we can,” Sullivan says. “It’s a more effective enforcement mechanism if the property owners are held responsible by the town, because they’re in a position where they can have these lease agreements with their tenants and can control what their tenants do.”
Patmore says he sees it differently.
“It’s arbitrary and capricious,” Patmore says. “They’re fining the landlord or the owner of the property for something they absolutely have no control over. I have no control over my tenants when they have visitors over.”
Vaughn says the issue with parking in Northside is symptomatic of property in the neighborhood being over-occupied by student renters.
“It’s all connected to the impact that student rentals in particular are having, especially when there are more than four students in a house,” Vaughn says.
Violating the vehicle limit results in a $100 fine from the city, with an additional $100 for each day the excess car remains.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/landlord-sues-over-northside-parking-limits
CARRBORO – The Carrboro Board of Aldermen continued to discuss the future of downtown parking Tuesday night, with the Board focusing on overnight parking and unbundling near the center of town.
“Ultimately, I think we have to base this on the reality of our parking situation and be guided by the vision we have for the ideal,” says Alderman Sammy Slade,” while also balancing the economic development reality of the fact that most businesses do depend on cars.
The meeting was an extension of a meeting last month where the Aldermen mostly focused on town-owned lots.
Although the second and fourth meetings of each month are typically designated as workshops without public comment, the Board allowed Chip Hoppin to speak as a representative of Southern Rail, a restaurant located right at the entrance to the Carr Mill Mall parking lot.
He reiterated talking points from a letter written to the Board, including that shop owners are displeased with how the management of Carr Mill Mall handles their lot.
“They feel that management at Carr Mill Mall specifically has been failing all the store owners in the area,” says Hoppin. “The bar owners specifically—the people who create an atmosphere, bring people into Carrboro and make Carrboro fun.”
Alderman Damon Seils says he thought the joint letter from members of the business community was a wise gesture.
“I just want to thank you and your colleagues for writing the letter,” says Seils. “In particular, in relation to the values that were expressed in the letter around the idea of a collaborative approach to parking in downtown. A really smart and thoughtful letter and I really appreciated it.”
Alderman Slade says he also isn’t happy with the actions of Carr Mill Mall’s management.
“I’ve been shocked at how the manager of Carr Mill Mall misrepresents himself when he says he’d rather not tow, but that he has to in order to guarantee that there is parking, knowing full well that they’re towing in the middle of the night when there are no Carr Mill shops open,” says Slade. “It’s really a disservice to Carrboro, and I know that’s his right to do it, but I think this is wrong.”
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton adds that it’s possible that people who illegally park their cars overnight are actually making a responsible decision.
“If you think about the people who leave business establishments downtown at 2 a.m., when they choose to walk home instead of driving home, that is a good thing. They give you a parking ticket for leaving your car in downtown Chapel Hill overnight. What are the incentivizing there? It isn’t necessarily the best policy.”
The Board began to discuss scenarios regarding the unbundling of parking, but after several minutes of discussion, members of town staff were unable to say for sure if the town’s land use ordinance would have to be changed for unbundling to occur.
Unbundling occurs when residences do not require each dwelling to be assigned a parking space. That way, those who choose to drive are paying for the right to do so instead of the cost being passed onto all occupants and encouraging alternative transportation.
The Board instructed town staff to relay their findings on the matter at a later meeting.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/boa-continues-discussion-on-parking
CARRBORO – The Carrboro Board of Aldermen began their discussion on the future of parking in the town with a work session largely focusing on how to handle the potential influx to the town’s municipal lots.
“People like to joke when they learn that I’m the Mayor of Carrboro by asking whether I can fix their parking tickets,” says Mayor Mark Chilton. “The answer is, if you mess up so bad that you get a parking ticket in the Town of Carrboro, there is nothing that I can do to help you.”
The abuse of the town’s free lots was one of the largest concerns raised by the Board. Chilton says UNC’s decision to charge $250 for park and ride lots to the University beginning in the fall could cause students, faculty and staff to try and park in one of Carrboro’s lots.
A 2008 study on parking in the town found that around 20 percent of those parking in the municipal lots were parking for more than three hours despite the fact that most town lots have a two hour limit.
But what should the town do to deter people from not using the lots as intended?
One option to help curb illicit use of the town’s free lots is to increase enforcement with the hiring of an on-site attendant. But Aldermen Damon Seils says any enforcement or payment plan must make sense for the town.
“We know that parking and provision of parking costs money,” says Seils. “We know that enforcing parking costs, and especially enforcing copious free parking, costs. It seems to me that the direction that we are going in is actually the costliest way about doing this and it doesn’t come with any of the benefits that we would acquire from another approach.”
Seils specifically cited private towing companies and the Town of Chapel Hill as potential partners in an enforcement plan—neither of which he is particularly fond of.
Another suggested option was for the town to charge for parking. But Aldermen Jacquelyn Gist says that would only make it tougher for local businesses downtown.
I’ll give you a study—just walk down Main Street and talk to the people that own the businesses and ask them if they want you to charge for parking,” says Gist. “Then walk down Franklin Street and ask people why their restaurant is going under, and that will be one of the top two reasons.”
Aldermen Randee Haven O’Donnell adds that free parking also encourages those from the outskirts of town to enjoy some of the restaurants and shops located more centrally in the downtown
“I really support free parking,” says O’Donnell. “For folks who are further out, this is their town too. When we had the Open Streets, a lot of folks came in from north of Homestead [Rd]. How did they get there? They drove—they drove to be on an open street. Check that out.”
Aldermen Sammy Slade introduced a motion which stipulated that the town would formulate a “downtown parking plan” with the town’s stated values as well as the monetary and staff resources that enacting the plan would entail.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/carrboro-boa-discuss-parking
CHAPEL HILL- Town Manager Roger Stancil says hybrid-only parking at the Chapel Hill Public Library has been reduced by nearly two-thirds, at the request of library patrons.
Stancil says he took down eight of the eleven signs in response to complaints that the spaces were sitting empty even when the rest of the lot was full.
“I have removed the signs,” says Stancil. “There were eight in the upper main parking lot and they have been taken down. I did that because we were getting these concerns.”
Three spaces in the circle near the front entrance are still reserved for hybrid or low-emission vehicles. Stancil says the spaces were originally designated for hybrids to help the expanded library achieve LEED certification.
“I’ve asked the staff to evaluate what points do we need to actually achieve the LEED certification and we can decide what options we have about low-emission parking with good information, not just putting the signs up with the assumption that we need them.”
LEED certification is a voluntary program to measure green building standards. Stancil says participation in that program is a town priority, and staff will evaluate the expanded library to see how to maintain that certification.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/town-trims-hybrid-parking-in-library-lot
Does holiday time leave you with something to get off your chest? Other than that questionable sweater from Aunt So-and-so. Please, leave it below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com. I hate to Grinch alone!